Many years ago, my husband and I needed a sink and dishwasher installed in our new kitchen. We didn’t know any plumbers in the area so we called one who had advertised in the classified section of our local newspaper. Paul, the plumber, arrived ready to work but within minutes we heard him muttering, “it’s more than I bargained for.” Several minutes later the muttering shifted to angry expletives and louder declarations that “it’s more than I bargained for.”
I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words when I read the most recent study out of the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada, about the shocking amount of microplastics we humans are getting in our diet and air. It turns out that when we bite into that burger, those fish sticks, or that plant-based meal we may be getting more than we bargained for.
The scientists at U. Vic., Hakai Institute, and Fisheries and Oceans Canada found that people eat a shocking 50,000 pieces of microplastic every year. As if that wasn’t enough, they also inhale about the same amount. The new study published in the journal Environmental Science Technology reveals the scary findings.
And for those people who meet their recommended water intake by drinking bottled water may be ingesting an additional 90,000 microplastics annually, compared to an average of 4,000 microplastics for those who drink tap water, according to the researchers.
We all know that plastics are ubiquitous on our planet and that we need to cut back on them, but perhaps the new study provides the impetus to finally make the changes we need to make. After all, plastics contain toxic compounds that have been linked to hormone disruption and other serious health concerns.
Discontinuing use of BPA-containing plastics is insufficient. BPA, or bisphenol-A, has been used as a building block for a type of plastic known as polycarbonate plastic (that’s the hard type of plastic used to manufacture plastic water bottles) as well as epoxy resins such as the plastic that lines soup and soda cans. When BPA is exposed to an alkaline environment or heated during packaging processes, sitting in hot transport trucks or used in microwave cooking, the molecular bonds holding it together break down to form xenoestrogens that disrupt the body’s hormonal balance, and are linked to obesity, cancer, infertility, immune imbalances and a host of other health problems.
But, BPA-containing plastics are not the only problem. Many companies have replaced the toxin with equally damaging compounds that form a little-known threat called EA, which is short for estrogen activity. These human-made chemicals pose a threat to humans and to children in particular. EAs have been found to increase aggression, affect the immune system and seriously affect hormones. Research in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives links these hormonal imbalances to early puberty in girls, reduced sperm counts, altered functions of reproductive organs, weight gain and obesity, altered sexual behaviors, as well as increased rates of breast, ovarian, prostate and testicular cancer.
10 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Use of Plastic
Replacing single-use water bottles for reusable glass or stainless-steel ones is a start, but not nearly enough. Here are 10 ways we can start to reduce our use of plastic in our daily lives (of course, feel free to do more than that):
Stop Buying Synthetic Fiber Clothing
Whether your clothing is made of fleece, microfiber, acrylic, nylon or polyester, they are all forms of plastic that is degraded and enters the waterways every time you wear or wash your clothes.
Carry a Hemp or Cotton Cloth Shopping Bag
Many synthetic “cloth” bags can actually contain plastic, which breaks down when washed or through daily use. Look for reusable hemp or organic cotton instead.
Stop Using Plastic Dishes or Cutlery
These dishes can break down when used or washed, causing microplastic to enter the water system.
Stop Buying or Using Plastic Food Storage Containers
These products gradually break down but they are far more prone to do so when heating food in them. This is unfortunately common through microwave use.
Cut out the Plastic Straws
If you haven’t already eliminated your use of plastic straws, it is time to step up your efforts as a citizen of planet Earth.
Choose Nano-Free and Micro-Free Skincare Options
Did you know that those nanoparticles or microbeads that many companies market as skin exfoliators are actually microplastics? Don’t be duped by the corporate marketing ploy: these plastics are not helpful to you or the planet.
Lose the Glitter
All that glitters isn’t gold. Nowadays, it’s plastic. That’s because the beauty industry (as well as every other industry that uses glitter) is making glitter from tiny piece of plastic. These microplastics leak into the water supply and soil, where they can wreak havoc on wildlife and marine life. Plankton, fish, shellfish, seabirds and other birds. The plastic-based glitter collects in their stomachs where it can cause them to die of starvation. Here are 11 more ways to reduce plastic in your beauty routine.
Stop Chewing Gum
Most chewing gum bases contain a compound known as polyisobutylene – a rubber that’s used to make the inner tubes of tires, and a soft type of plastic.
Stop Using Disposable Coffee Cups
Disposable coffee cups contain a plastic lining that breaks down as the cups are used.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM shares her food growing, cooking, preserving, and other food self-sufficiency adventures at FoodHouseProject.com. She is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include her newest book: FOOD FIX: The Most Powerful Healing Foods and How to Use Them to Overcome Disease. Follow her work.